Letters from a Utah Farmer
Letter from a farmer in Utah
Texas vs TSA
With a good deal of surprise I have observed that little notice has been taken of an act of Federal Authority, as injurious in its principle to the liberties of these States as the Patriot Act was: I mean the act for suspending the all air traffic flights and the legislation of Texas.
The assembly of the Federal government complied with a former act of Congress, requiring certain provisions to be made for Federal troops in America, in every particular, I think, except the articles of salt, pepper, and vinegar.
In my opinion Texas acted prudently, considering all circumstances, in not complying so far as would have given satisfaction as several states did.
But my dislike of federal conduct in this instance has not blinded me so much that I cannot plainly perceive that Texans have been punished in a manner pernicious to American freedom and justly alarming to all the States.
If the Federal Congress has a legal authority to issue an order that we shall furnish a single article for the federal troops here and compel obedience to that order, they have the same right to issue an order for us supply those federal troops with arms, clothes, and every necessary, and to compel obedience to that order also; in short, to lay any burdens they please upon us.
What is this but taxing us at a certain sum and leaving us only the manner of raising it? How is this mode more tolerable than the Patriot Act? Would that act have appeared more pleasing to Americans if, being ordered thereby to raise the sum total of the taxes, the mighty privilege had been left to them of saying how much should be paid for an instrument of writing on paper, and how much for another on a computer?
An act of Congress commanding us to do a certain thing, if it has any validity, is a tax upon us for the expense that accrues in complying with it, and for this reason, I believe, every state on the continent that chose to give a mark of their respect for Federal Government, in complying with the act relating to the troops, cautiously avoided the mention of that act, lest their conduct should be attributed to its supposed obligation.
The matter being thus stated, the assembly of Texas either had or had no right to refuse submission to that act.
If they had, and I imagine no American will say they had not, then the Federal Government had no right to compel them to execute it.
If they had not that right, they had no right to punish them for not executing it; and therefore had no right to suspend their legislation, which is a punishment.
In fact, if the people of Texas cannot be legally policed but by their own representatives, they cannot be legally deprived of the privilege of legislation, only for insisting on that exclusive privilege of regulation, enforcement, taxation or determination.
If they may be legally deprived in such a case of the privilege of legislation, why may they not, with equal reason, be deprived of every other privilege? Or why may not every state be treated in the same manner, when any of them shall dare to deny their assent to any impositions that shall be directed? Or what signifies the repeal of the Patriot Act, if these states are to lose their other privileges by not tamely surrendering that of taxation and regulation?
There is one consideration arising from the suspension which is not generally attended to but shows its importance very clearly.
It was not necessary that this suspension should be caused by an act of Federal Police. The Federal Government might have restrained the governor of Texas even from calling the assembly together, by its prerogative in the Constitutional government. This step, I suppose, would have been taken if the conduct of the assembly of Texas had been regarded as an act of disobedience to the Constitution alone.
But it is regarded as an act of “disobedience to the authority of the Federal Government” This gives the suspension a consequence vastly more affecting. It is a parliamentary assertion of the supreme authority of the Federal legislature over these states in the point of enforcement, taxation and regulation; and it is intended to compel Texas into a submission to that authority. It seems therefore to me as much a violation of the liberty of the people of that province, and consequently of all these states, as if the congress had sent a number of federal regiments to be quartered upon them, till they should comply.
Thank you, John Dickenson, for serving on the battlefield, of resistance against tyranny.